We Are All Treaty People

Statement on the discovery of remains at a residential school

  • Published - 30/05/2021
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  • Posted By - Treaty Commissioner
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The recent discovery of 215 children found buried near residential school in B.C. moved the Treaty Commissioner of Saskatchewan to write a column for the Toronto Star. (Trigger warning: this piece may be distressing for some. The National Indian Residential School Crisis Line is 1-866 925-4419)

We’re sharing excerpts from the article here.

“I came from Keeseekoose had the shadow of Fort Pelly, or St. Philips Residential School, then day school casting an awful legacy on our nation. 

I grew up hearing the stories, and there was never a single good one. 

We would play scary games and listen for things that went bump in the night. We felt that place was creepy, that spirits lived there and that bad things happened there. It was just something you always knew. The fear was instilled in us: You don’t go there. 

A lawyer friend in Toronto sent me a link Thursday night to an article about Kamloops residential school and the bodies that had been found there.  

Reading the article this week was horrifying, heartbreaking and triggering. I was shocked at its existence, in some ways, because now it’s all real – right in front of Canada. The graves have been found. 

It is something we as Indigenous people know: that children died, that children were killed, that there were graves, that children were never seen again. Oral history and loud secrets in communities are common; there are things you don’t talk about.

The true nature of the schools, their purpose and their legacy was revealed to the world through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was struck from the Indian Residential School Agreement implemented in 2007. 

The TRC reported that approximately 3,200 children died in the residential schools and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, based in Winnipeg, has created a registry of children who died in the schools. We know as Indigenous people this was not all. Now the rest of the world knows too; it is the truth.

I am the first lawyer from my nation, I am the first woman Treaty Commissioner of Saskatchewan, I am the daughter and granddaughter of residential school survivors and the ex-wife of a survivor. 

I had the honor of serving survivors as a lawyer for a First Nations law firm, Sunchild Law, in the Independent Assessment Process, the compensation part of the residential school settlement agreement. 

It tore me apart, it built me back up and I am able to face this work with the resiliency that my ancestors have instilled in me. We can never stop speaking and exposing the truth of these horrifying facts, of the genocide. For the children who never came home, for our children yet to come that this may never happen again and that we never forget the truth comes before reconciliation.”